As the US passes the tragic milestone of one million Covid deaths, a New York Times article laments that most of those lives would have been saved if the country acted more like Australia.
Australia's response differed greatly from the US, especially in the early days of the pandemic, but the article's author, Damien Cave, argues one major factor helped Australia to a much lower death toll of just over 7800 deaths.
What the US lacked during the pandemic
Cave explained both Australia and the US have similar demographics. He acknowledged Australia restricted travel, both locally and internationally, and waited until the vast majority of people were vaccinated before opening back up.
While there were some blunders along the way and daily cases and deaths are now on the rise in Australia due to the highly transmissible omicron variant and opening back up, he said US society lacked one key ingredient in responding to Covid.
"Dozens of interviews, along with survey data and scientific studies from around the world, point to a lifesaving trait that Australians displayed from the top of government to the hospital floor, and that Americans have shown they lack.
"Trust, in science and institutions, but especially in one another," he wrote.
From the outset of the pandemic, more than 70 per cent of Australians trusted the healthcare system, whereas only 34 per cent of Americans trusted theirs.
Trust can form an effective response
A government can prepare for or earn trust during a crisis, and a study published by The Lancet found gaining trust can mean a more effective response to future pandemics.
The study noted there was evidence to suggest a correlation between trust in government and a reduced death rate.
There are people in Australia who don't trust the government and trust in Scott Morrison fell from 8 per cent in March 2020 to 6 per cent in March 2022.
Australia’s Covid death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of 25 million people near the top of global rankings in the protection of life. Both countries share similar demographics, but their rates point to different cultures of trust. https://t.co/VQwzMwytVB
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 16, 2022
However, more than 80 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and only just over 60 per cent of Americans have taken up the jabs.
Since vaccines have become widely available in the US, some 400,000 people have died from Covid-19, USA Today reported.
Of those deaths, more than 300,000 people were likely unvaccinated.
“I think it’s reasonable to say that likely more than 300,000 deaths were preventable,” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health epidemiologist David Dowdy told USA Today.
“Three hundred thousand people is the size of a midsize city. And to think we could have prevented that number of people from dying just by doing a better job of getting a very safe and highly effective vaccine into people is tragic."
Australia's quick response to Covid
He also noted Australia's chief medical officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, was quick to act when hearing about a coronavirus with human-to-human transmission in China.
The swift response definitely helped Australia keep the virus at bay. Meanwhile, then-president Donald Trump was downplaying the severity of Covid.
The Lancet reiterated trust can be fostered, which gives hope to places like the US if faced with another crisis.
"Governments and communities maintain or increase the public's trust by providing accurate, timely information about the pandemic, even when that information is still limited, and by clearly communicating the risk and relevant vulnerabilities," the study says.
Australia's Covid policies, while somewhat of an inconvenience, were in line with what actual health professionals and scientists were wanting.
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